The Old Pine Tree

Non-secular Easter

My pysanka egg got a coating of shellac (my mom’s too). We still dyed hard-boiled eggs with a kit because why not have some neon eggs on your table?

A perfect spring walk in the woods turned up old stone walls piled hundreds of years ago to make way for cattle and farming, and some frog eggs. It’s nice to see signs of life.

I made my mom an Easter basket this year since she’s such a generous rockin’ mama, with black tea for her kombucha making, suet for the birds, seeds, muesli, fancy dark chocolate, and Burt’s bees chapstick tucked into a hanging basket for flowers this summer.

I hope you celebrated what ever is important to you and got a taste of spring.

Pysanka

Pysanka - a Ukrainian decorated egg

Last Sunday I drove with my mother through the rain down a muddy, rut filled dirt road, to a house that sits up on a hill overlooking a dam in the middle of the woods. My mother’s friend Lesia, whose ancestors were Ukrainian, had invited us over to paint a pysanka, a Kkrainian egg.

After a first look at the Pysankas from previous years I was intimidated.

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I couldn’t possibly create an egg so elegant! Many of the patterns were intricate and clearly required a steady hand. After looking through some books and studying sheets with symbols and their meanings on them, some ideas began to take shape in my mind.

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Lesia explained that you use wax to seal the dye on the egg. Any color you cover with wax will remain that cover despite multiple rounds of dying. If you have a white egg and you draw lines with the wax over it, and then you dip it in an orange dye, those lines will be white in the end (after you’ve removed all of the wax).

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After you have applied the first dye you continue with the wax. If you dye your egg pink first (like I did), and then you add wax, anything you draw with wax will be pink in the end.

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This process continues. You have to both keep in mind which colors you’ve already used and which items will be those colors, as well as look forward to what you think you will want to do, especially when it comes to the dyes. You have to start with the lighter dyes and move to the darker dyes, because a yellow dye won’t take over, say, a purple one. You cannot use any wax, it must be a kind that contains carbon, like bees wax, which is what we used.

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One of the things I found most interesting was that different eggs took the dye differently. My egg was a pale-ish green (from an araucana hen).

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The woman sitting next to me had a white egg and we used the same dyes in the same order. Look at how differently they looked (we used the same blue! Mine came out so much darker).

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Pysanka was only ever practiced by women, after they had finished the nightly chores. They were often thought of as good omens and were placed in caskets, gardens, and given to chrushes as a token of love. I chose my symbols with omens in mind. I did a reindeer for prosperity, a rooster for the fulfillment of wishes, trees for a long life, and fig branches for wealth.

Traditionally the eggs were not blown out. The yolk symbolized the sun and the whites symbolized the moon. Don’t want to get rid of that! An egg that has no cracks whatsoever will harden on the inside and sound like a faint rattle when it has dried out. People store them in plastic boxes when they are not blown out and are drying because the smell is so horrendous if they crack and explode. 

After three or so hours of creating our eggs we left them wax covered to drink homemade dandelion wine and snack on some treats.

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Then we uncovered our eggs (traditionally one would hold the egg near, but not on, a flame and the wax would melt off. We used paint thinner). Below are the finished products.

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What a festive easter activity that got the creative juices flowing. Now I just need to spray my egg with shellac so that I can keep it through the years. I hope to try this again in the future, and look forward to testing my hand at an intricate, pattern based design.

On writing, or rather, not writing

When I was a junior in highschool I took an advanced writing class. One of the first things we were taught was to start calling ourselves writers. We had to write a brief history of our life as a writer, from when we were young and just starting school, up until that present moment.  

I lived in Pittsburgh for a short time in 2009 and 2010. My first week there I joined a writing group and began writing regularly. It was the first time I truly felt like a writer, often penning multiple pages every day. It was the first time I believed that I was a good writer and had something to offer. 

Lately I haven’t been writing very much. Not just lately, over the past few years. I go through spurts where I will write on and off for days, and then I won’t, for months. During those months I will think about writing, I will feel inspired here and there, but mostly I will feel guilty that I’m not writing. 

I haven’t written about this much lately, but I am one of those people that believes that if you visualize your deepest desires in life they will, eventually, come your way. I read something recently that reminded me of this, that just visualizing and believing that what you want will come your way is enough.

I thought about how I visualize being a writer, about having a lovely creative space to write in, about taking my time each day, mixing in writing with exploring and enjoying a good cup of tea and gardening and making salads (there you have it - my perfect day - simple as it gets). For a moment I doubted that this would ever happen. I’ve been doubting more lately, and the more I doubt, the more that dream slips from my fingers.

This morning I realized I’ve been visualizing all wrong. Maybe I need to stop visualizing this cushy, easy, peaceful life as a successful writer, and instead see myself writing (or at least add a new, separate vision). The dream always involves me enjoying a carefree life as a successful author, but it never involves me actually writing. 

This morning I started visualizing myself writing a lot, and often. We’ll see where it takes me.

Pinch me

It’s not even summer yet and I’m already a little in disbelief that I get to live in such a beautiful place. The warmer days we have been treated to are just a glimpse into what the warmer months will be like and it seems kind of unfair that I get to live here while other people have to live, well, anywhere else.

Yesterday I could smell the ocean from where I work. One of my favorite roads to run on is low and winding and hugs the river right before it enters the bay. The road is almost always empty (of cars or pedestrians). It continues on up and over hills always maintaining a view of the water. This is my regular run. There are other routes that take me to equally as beautiful spots and I have an overwhelming feeling of joy to be so close to such beauty. It’s not like when I lived in Boston and my heart hurt for the natural world, or when I lived in Pittsburgh and I didn’t know where I’d go to find it if I tried. Portland is a special place and sufficed in its own way, but it wasn’t so close. Here it feels like it is wrapped around me all the time. 

I know what the summer will be. It may be hot, but it will be ocean breezes and after dinner walks by the water. It will be putting my feet in the ocean after a long run. It will be anxiously waiting for one of my girlfriends to invite me on her dad’s boat. It will be sun sparkling off the water in the morning. It will be walks and running through the woods to get out of the heat on a warm day. It will be ultimate frisbee by the sea. It will be barefoot on the lawn, going out to check the veggies in the garden. It will be sitting with friends on the porch, screened by lilac bushes and hydrangeas. It will be summer dresses and long evenings that don’t dare ask you to call it a night. It will be beautiful, because anything set against this backdrop just has to be.

In some ways I’m still settling in. I’m still trying to carve out some sort of social life for myself, one that balances old friends, wanting to meet new friends, and being busy. I’m still coming into myself in my job, a process that will probably take years but one that I’m enjoying every day.

One of the lessons that a long winter teaches us is to let the warmer months be light and full so that we may appreciate the rest when the darker months return. I’m ready to enjoy this amazing place I get to call home.

Ukrainian egg painting

Rainy Sunday folk art lesson. More to come (including my first taste of dandelion wine!). Reindeer signify prosperity.

Ukrainian egg painting

Rainy Sunday folk art lesson. More to come (including my first taste of dandelion wine!). Reindeer signify prosperity.

Season of creativity

April seems like a good time to shake off my winter coat and plant some creative seeds. I finally put up the chalkboard contact paper I’ve been holding on to.

I made the sculpture you see above when I was a kid. I put it on my desk as a reminder of my creative side.

Yesterday I planted my first seeds (cabbage and shallots). Soon they will be sprouting, and maybe by then I’ll have written a page or two.

Today, by the sea

Today, by the sea

Grateful Friday

Today I’m grateful for:

The promise of a sunny day. This morning I was walking to work (in ankle pants and tweed sneakers) and the rain had just stopped and in the distance was the rosy hue of the approaching sun pushing against the clouds.

The freedom that spring brings. Today we’re supposed to have “near record-breaking highs.” They were talking about the temperature, but maybe they were also talking about people’s moods, because everyone is ready to shed off the quiet reservedness we embody in the winter to be more light and happy and free. Even me.

Changing wardrobes. It’s been four and a half months since I’ve worn ankle-length pants (or gone without wool socks, or worn dress shoes without socks), and it’s always fun to pull out the warmer-season clothes and suddenly have more options. I always think: “oh ya, I do have cute clothes.” Almost time to pack away the corduroy. 

Coconut oil. For the past six to eight weeks I have basically stopped using lotion on my face and instead use coconut oil. It seems kind of crazy to put any kind of oil on your face (a recipe to break out within an hour, right?), but I read something that seemed really obvious to me, that when your skin is dry it needs more oil; it’s dry because it is lacking oil. Coconut oil is very gentle and light, and turns out it’s kind of a thing, people using it as a facial lotion (always go with organic virgin coconut oil - Trader Joe’s has it). It hasn’t made my face breakout at all, and when I put it on somehow my skin looks young and fresh (you need only a very little amount). 

Chamomile tea. I sip this stuff every night and I’ve been sleeping like a baby goat this spring. 

Planning trips. Like vacations that are two. weeks. long. 

Catching up with friends. Made even better by walks in the woods that drop you out where the river mixes with sea. I’ve got a number of weekends in the next few months that are all about my girlfriends and I’m so darn excited to see them, especially getting to see some that live out of State multiple times.

Little moments of creativity. I’ve been bad about devoting time to my creative pursuits. It’s just plain my fault. I need to be better about choosing to use my free time for my creative expression, because I don’t feel great when I’m ignoring that part of me. I have had some moments this week though, and some coming up, and I’m really looking forward to them (I will share the finished products with you all).

Collaboration. I’ll soon be working to get young people (like me!) involved in their community, because while we might be the oldest State in the country (the median age is over 43-years-old), we’ve got a lot of brilliant, creative, inspired young people too, and it’s time to take advantage of that.

Contact. Did you know that I’m on Instagram (@theoldpinetree)? You can also reach me via e-mail, and you’re always welcome to stop by my ask box. I love hearing from you guys!

Boy, Friday is great.

What are you grateful for today?

Oxbow Brewing: A trip to the hobbit hole 

Last weekend, after a great time exploring Damariscotta, I stopped over at Oxbow with some friends. This isn’t your usual brewery, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. This is not some industrial site; I felt like I had pulled up at one of my friends’ houses on a back road in Waldo County. The tasting room is small, it really felt like a hobbit hole to me. It’s cozy and inviting inside, and was a great place to relax and catch up with friends.

Oxbow is a newer brewery. You never know what that means for quality or flavor, but Oxbow immediately brought the big guns when they hit the scene, and there has been no looking back. They’ve been brewing good beer since day one. I put them up there with Marshall Wharf as far as quality goes. It is because of in-state breweries like these that keep me from drinking commercial beer. 

As much as a I like beer, I also don’t like beer. I can’t appreciate everything that comes across my palate. Of the beers Oxbow had available for tasting my favorite was the Space Cowboy. It was really, really good. We picked up two kinds of beers to share with our friends Fred and Jane, who have never had Oxbow before (if you guys are reading this, let’s get together soon, because I’m not sure how tightly capped this stuff is). 

If you go to Oxbow you can get 4oz tastings for $2/glass. Not too bad and you can try everything. The glasses are well designed, so you might pay a few bucks and take one home (unfortunately they didn’t have any of the ones that said “The Goods from the Woods” when I was there). I don’t know how they support traffic in the summertime because they really are a small operation in the woods, so if you live within two hours of Newcastle and you like beer, get yer butt to Oxbow before Memorial Day. Go on a mild day and enjoy your friends and good beer outside among the pines. Don’t forget your boots though, it might be a little muddy.

I look forward to getting to know the Oxbow line of beers even better, and seeing what they put out in the future. Maine is lucky to have this place. As they say: “loud beer from a quiet place.” I’d agree with that.

Walks with friends

Preferably in the woods

Walks with friends

Preferably in the woods

We have a government that says it’s okay to eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew, but it’s illegal to drink raw milk and eat compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Matilda’s pickles.
From my heart to Rebel Heart

A few years ago I started following this blog. The woman is the friend of a friend and it wasn’t long before I was pulled in by their story and their real take on life. After over a year of living in Mexico on their sailboat they set off across the Pacific Ocean on the next leg of their dream trip to sail around the world. I have a lot of admiration for this family, following their dreams and sticking to their convictions. Sure, they are living life differently, but that’s in part what makes it admirable.

From reading their blogs I have come to realize that many, many families and couples and solo individuals live on sailboats and travel around the world. This is not something new, and it is not unusually dangerous.

I was deeply saddened to learn this morning that the family aboard s/v Rebel Heart had to evacuate their boat because their daughter, little 1-year-old Lyra, was sick. I was even more saddened to read that their sailboat, Rebel Heart, was being sunk in the ocean because it had broken down and was taking on water. Unfortunately, a number of people took to their blog to comment about how stupid it was to try and sail around the world. Imagine being in your home and your daughter gets terribly sick so you call 911. Then, you find out a house fire started and your home is being burnt to the ground (except that loosing a sailboat would be like losing the ownership to your land as well). And then a bunch of strangers who heard your story on the news took to the internet to tell you how stupid you were.

Dear Eric, Charlotte, Lyra, and Cora: your family has captured my heart and I wish you peace, calm, and quiet time together and with your family and friends in the next few months as you recover from this harrowing experience. I admire your dreams, and I hope you continue to pursue them.

Running faster 
Ask a long distance runner how they feel about 5ks and 10ks, and you’ll likely get a loud groan (I imagine the response is pretty similar when you ask a short distance racer to think about running a marathon). There are two types of running, and for the last few years I have been squarely in the long, slow category. 
This morning I ran a 5k for the first time since 2006. I was honestly dreading it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was frigging cold and it was windier than hell. Put all that together and I was over it before it even started. I was also not so secretly afraid that I was going to be slow, and being a somewhat, at times, competitive person (can any runner not be?), I cared about that. 
The race was at a pretty great location, starting high over the Penobscot River on the Penobscot Narrows bridge (you can see the point of it behind me in the photo) next to Fort Knox. The first mile went surprisingly well, and then the next mile felt crummy. I told myself to hold on and keep at it because my goodness this race was so much shorter than what I was used to, so all things considered, it was temporary. 
A final push at the finish line chute and the clock read 22:55, so I kicked in all I had to get over it before 23:00. I was pretty happy with myself, because I was worried my marathon-slow legs wouldn’t dare give me anything faster than an 8:00 minute mile today. According to my Garmin though, I averaged a 7:38 pace. I know that this isn’t really fast for a lot of you dedicated racers out there, but It’s been a hellish winter and I haven’t been running much and I have barely been training (a speed workout on the treadmill here and there to remind my legs of a faster cadence).  And then there’s those 7.5 years since I’ve run one of these things.
The icing on the cake? Turns out I finished first in my age group (which was an unforgiving 18-29), and I won a prize. I’ve never won a prize for running before!

Running faster 

Ask a long distance runner how they feel about 5ks and 10ks, and you’ll likely get a loud groan (I imagine the response is pretty similar when you ask a short distance racer to think about running a marathon). There are two types of running, and for the last few years I have been squarely in the long, slow category. 

This morning I ran a 5k for the first time since 2006. I was honestly dreading it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was frigging cold and it was windier than hell. Put all that together and I was over it before it even started. I was also not so secretly afraid that I was going to be slow, and being a somewhat, at times, competitive person (can any runner not be?), I cared about that. 

The race was at a pretty great location, starting high over the Penobscot River on the Penobscot Narrows bridge (you can see the point of it behind me in the photo) next to Fort Knox. The first mile went surprisingly well, and then the next mile felt crummy. I told myself to hold on and keep at it because my goodness this race was so much shorter than what I was used to, so all things considered, it was temporary. 

A final push at the finish line chute and the clock read 22:55, so I kicked in all I had to get over it before 23:00. I was pretty happy with myself, because I was worried my marathon-slow legs wouldn’t dare give me anything faster than an 8:00 minute mile today. According to my Garmin though, I averaged a 7:38 pace. I know that this isn’t really fast for a lot of you dedicated racers out there, but It’s been a hellish winter and I haven’t been running much and I have barely been training (a speed workout on the treadmill here and there to remind my legs of a faster cadence).  And then there’s those 7.5 years since I’ve run one of these things.

The icing on the cake? Turns out I finished first in my age group (which was an unforgiving 18-29), and I won a prize. I’ve never won a prize for running before!

Today, by the sea 

Stomping through the woods and along the shore. Spring day, fully enjoyed. More to come.

Today, by the sea

Stomping through the woods and along the shore. Spring day, fully enjoyed. More to come.

Maine Gal

I rebranded my Klean Kanteen, and I’ve found the sweatshirt I’m going to tote to campfires and the seaside this summer.